Tip of the Hat to a True Friend of Florida Agriculture and Beyond

Gene McAvoy and Frank Giles greet at Gene's retirement party

After a long career in ag Extension, Gene McAvoy (right) is retiring from the University of Florida but will continue to be a valued member of the Florida Grower team.

It is not often that I use this page to give a tip of the hat and offer congratulations to someone on their retirement. The reason is simple. There are so many good people in this industry worthy of recognition, it would be a monthly affair if I did. But, every so often, I will take a point of privilege and give someone a special nod here for a career of good works. In July, Gene McAvoy, Hendry County’s Extension Director and Regional Vegetable Extension Agent for Southwest Florida, retired from UF/IFAS. Gene also has penned Florida Grower magazine’s monthly “Pest of the Month” column for two decades.

Gene has been a special friend to Florida Grower magazine, and me personally, over the years and always is among the first people I call when it when comes to South Florida vegetable production questions. He also is my personal pest ID man. I have sent him numerous text messages with a photo I’ve taken of some critter with the message — What is this one, Gene?

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I know he has been a special friend and asset to the many growers he served in this area and beyond. Gene has worked in various roles with UF/IFAS for 22 years, but his connections to agriculture go back some 50 years when he began picking tomatoes for a farmer during summers in New Jersey to help pay for his schooling at Rutgers University where he studied plant science.

After graduating from Rutgers, Gene joined the Peace Corps and was posted in Niger, in West Africa, where he worked with small vegetable growers. The Peace Corps tenure also allowed him to work with growers in Jamaica and the West Indies.

During his Peace Corps service, he returned to Rutgers to pursue his MS in horticulture. While there, he helped create the school’s International Programs Office’s and developed and taught the Vegetable Production and Marketing Short Course, which is an intensive class for Extension professionals around the world. This class has literally helped people in every corner of the globe.

Gene says these experiences changed his life, giving him an appreciation of cultures from around the world and teaching him how to work well with people from all walks of life. It is pretty easy to see that in Gene’s character.

He joined UF/IFAS in 1997 and credits former Hendry County Extension Agent Dallas Townsend with teaching him the ins and outs of Florida vegetable production. Gene says he is retiring from the best job in the world, and he is forever grateful to the good people of LaBelle and Southwest Florida.

Gene, we are forever grateful for your service to Florida agriculture and your contributions to this magazine. And the good news is Gene’s “Pest of the Month” contributions will continue here in Florida Grower, and he tells me he will have other projects going. So, he’s going to be around to lend his knowledge and expertise even in retirement. We are all glad to hear that.

Congratulations on retirement and a job well done!